blue madonna
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Michelangelo Madonna Child

Pitti Tondo
Michelangelo 1503
Bargello, Florence

Michelangelo's Pitti Tondo | John Robinson


Josef lead me into the dark laboratory of an alchemist, dimly lit by candles that gave just enough light to see a workbench. On the bench was a small black plastic tray with a spike sticking up from it. At the end of the spike was a tiny black blob of tar like substance, which someone then lit with a red-hot taper. Suddenly the black tar burst into a ball of blazing azure light the size of a grapefruit. The brilliant blue seemed to be contained within its own circumference and glowed like a ball of burning phosphorus. I felt absolutely transfixed with joy as I gazed at the light.


What have you burnt? The alchemist explained that he had made the black paste by grinding together hundreds of wings from dead blue butterflies.

Glass Sample arrives

A month later a parcel arrived with the glass sample. I gingerly unfolded the paper and found a small square of the most perfect azure blue colour I had ever seen. I took it over to the Tondo in the studio and laid it on Mary’s white Carrara marble robes and hoped that Josef would be able to successfully cast what I believe could turn out to be a truly unique work of art.


Michelangelo’s Bruges Madonna was carved in 1501 and depicts Mary holding the Holy Scriptures closed on her lap, symbolising that the Mother of God is Eternal Wisdom. This reminds me of the words sung by Paul McCartney:- In troubled times Mother Mary comes to me, and whispers words of wisdom, Let it be, Let it be. There will be an answer, Let it be, Let it be.

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© John Robinson/Edition Limitee 2007
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